Food Processor Tech Guide

Pros and Cons of Starting Your Own Food Business


  • Being your own boss.
  • Creating your own work environment: hours, flexibility, etc.
  • Doing something in which you believe
  • Reaping the benefits of hard work and long hours directly.
  • Variety, challenges, and opportunities for creativity, full use of knowledge
  • More open earning and growth potential
  • Satisfaction of a successful venture, a product well received
  • Empowerment


  • Risk of failure
  • Time Commitment — 60-70 hrs per week is normal
  • Financial strain as assets become tied to business start up and success
  • Strain on family due to financial and lifestyle change
  • Emotional burnout
  • Unavoidable business roles/requirements you’d rather not fill
  • Rejection of your product by consumers

Developing Your Product

  1. Develop a prototype. Test it out on people. Collect and incorporate feedback on flavor, texture and appearance.
  2. Determine the market form you would like the product to have: shelf-stable, refrigerated, frozen, baked, canned etc.
  3. Determine the batch size you will need for commercial operation. A good start-up size for a liquid product (dressings, etc.) is 5-10 gallons. For solid product, consider a 15-25 pound batch.
  4. Scale up your recipe. This is often done with the help of a contract packer or food consultant, or you can work on scale up by trying things on your own.
  5. Keep in mind that the formulation may change due to regulatory and food safety requirements. Testing (pH, water activity, etc.) may be required for compliance with regulations. It may take several attempts to achieve a scaled-up product comparable to the original; ingredient amounts will not change proportionately. For example, you may double the tomato sauce in a BBQ recipe but find you only need to slightly increase the amount of garlic.
  6. Get approval for your recipe from a Process Authority. This resulting document, a Scheduled Process, will help avoid product safety and quality issues.
  7. Determine the cost of ingredients based on your approved, scaled-up recipe.

Local Food Processing Regulations 

  1. The Federal government, individual states, cities and municipalities govern the operation of food processing facilities whether home kitchens or commercial facilities. Regulations differ from state to state and are determined by the type of food product being prepared and the processing methods used.
  2. Some types of foods may not be produced in a home kitchen, as mandated by Federal regulations. These foods are considered potentially hazardous; low acid and acidified foods, meat products, and vacuum packaged and any other reduced oxygen packaged products.
  3. Many states allow non-hazardous foods such as candy, cakes not requiring refrigeration, cookies, brownies, two-crusted fruit pies, breads and rolls, fruit jams and jellies, dried spices and herbs, and snack items to be produced in home kitchens. It is the producer's responsibility to contact state regulatory agencies (State Department of Health and/or State Department of Agriculture and Markets) where the food is being produced for the rules governing home kitchen production. You would also want to check with your local building inspectors to determine what operations can take place in the kitchen chosen for food production.

Business Planning

  1. Write a Business Plan. It will help you focus your business goals and determine if you need funding.
  2. Consider liability insurance. It is affordable and can protect personal assets in the event of a problem with your product.
  3. Determine a form for your business: sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, limited liability or subchapter(s) corporation.
  4. Register your business with the state.
  5. Get assistance from business resources including New York State Ag & Markets, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, SBDCs, SCORE, NECFE and local economic development agencies.

Product Labels

  1. Decide on a product name.
  2. Determine applicable regulatory requirements. Ask your state regulatory officials for help or contact NECFE at NYSFVC. Consult the FDA Food Labeling Guide.
  3. Determine what storage information must be on your package: refrigerate, refrigerate after opening, etc.
  4. Choose a size and shape which is compatible with your packaging.
  5. Invest as much in your labels as possible. They are the first thing customers will see.
  6. Make test labels, or labels for small, initial, batches, on a computer printer to cut costs.
  7. Decide if you wish to make health claims. If you do, you must have nutritional analysis done and invest the time and money for FDA compliant nutrition labeling.
  8. Decide whether or not to invest in a bar code. The registry fee is $500, but most large stores and chains will not consider your product without one. If you do not plan to sell to large distributors, you don’t need one.

Product Production

  1. Decide where you will produce your product: commercial kitchen, pilot plant or co-packer.
  2. Find storage space for ingredients, packaging, and the final product.
  3. Schedule time with experts at the production facility to learn about equipment.
  4. Determine when, based on ordering supplies, you can produce and package product.
  5. Schedule time at a processing facility to produce your product.

Market Decisions

  1. Write a Marketing Plan. It is a framework for research on competition, ceiling prices, target markets, etc. and structures your marketing goals and methods.
  2. Decide where you will sell your product. Generally, start off small — at farmers markets, fairs, road-side stands, etc. These are also good places to test market your product.
  3. Determine a selling price for your product, taking the competition and your financial needs into account.
  4. Develop a distribution method: your car, the mail, a fellow specialty food entrepreneur, distributor or broker.

Selling Homemade Foods

  1. Regulatory requirements vary depending on the type of foods you plan to make and how you plan to sell them.
  2. If you plan to make foods such as certain baked goods, jellies or snack mixes, you may qualify for a Home Processor exemption. This will allow you to prepare food in your home kitchen for wholesale or retail sale at agricultural farm venues.
  3. If you plan to prepare and sell foods and are not eligible for a Home Processor exemption, you will need to obtain a Food Service Establishment permit from your local health department. Your home kitchen cannot be used, however a separate kitchen located in your residence may be acceptable.